Monday, January 26, 2009

Judge Bars Gluck from Leaving Court Case

Judge Alice Schlesinger Ruled on January 26, 2009 that Gluck May Not Withdraw From the "Unique or Peculiar" Court Case.

Gluck and his colleagues in the "Highbridge House" case (our case concerning "unique or peculiar circumstances" increases) had agreed to a schedule of filing various motions (requests to the court). (Click here for background on the case. ) But instead of filing the motion that was due in January (a motion for summary judgment), Gluck and his colleague landlords in court asked for permission to withdraw their case in order to let DHCR determine the pending "unique or peculiar" applications.

Justice Schlesinger denied that request. So both the Highbridge House case and the Columbus 95 case (about Columbus House at 95 West 95th Street) will continue together before her. Click here to see her decision.

SOME OF THE REASONS THE JUDGE GAVE FOR DENYING THE LANDLORDS' REQUEST TO LEAVE THE CASE:

1. Harm to Tenants and DHCR if the Landlords Withdraw:
Tenants and DHCR had moved to dismiss the Columbus 95 case, but they agreed to withdraw their motions once the court set up a schedule including the landlords filing a motion for summary judgment instead.
So it is unfair to the tenants and to DHCR to permit the landlords to withdraw now. ("Summary judgment" means a decision by the court based on the law, rather than the facts. This is done where everyone agrees on the facts - as is true in our case.)

In addition, DHCR says that even if the case were sent back to DHCR now, there is no guarantee that it would be decided before the April 22, 2009 argument scheduled in the court case. And DHCR says it is still bound by a temporary restraining order imposed by Justice Stone stopping DHCR from considering any U or P case.

2. Public Interest:
Public interest would be harmed by the withdrawal. The judge noted, "Hundreds (if not thousands) of tenants are parties here and they have reportedly incurred considerable expenses in this action. And thousands more will be affected by the determination of the issues in this case." So it is better to handle this now.

3. Judicial inefficiency:
If DHCR does consider the U or P applications, it will likely apply the new regulations and that will lead to the landlords going back to court for a determination of the very same issues now before the court. That would be a waste of resources. Let's consider the issues now.

4. Change in the Political Landscape
The landlords' lawyer argued that they "had decided not to pursue the litigation once they realized that the newly elected state legislators had the power to undo any judicial victory by changing the law." The court pointed out that they could have made that claim right after the November election, and not just a few days before the landlords' deadline for filing a summary judgment motion.

5. Landlord Inconsistency: They are asking to get out of the case now, but were doing everything they could to get into it and keep it going before. Only now that they have a summary judgment motion due, they are asking to get out of the case.

Some examples the court gave of how the landlords have pushed ahead with their case until now:
  • When Justice Rakower (in an earlier case) told Gluck that DHCR could take its time and had to decide the U or P applications itself, Gluck avoided letting DHCR do that by starting a different case - the one that ended up before Justice Stone and then before Justice Schlesinger.
  • Gluck and his fellow landlords asked the court to join their case with the pending Columbus 95 case.
  • Gluck and his fellow landlords tried to withdraw from the case earlier when he learned that Justice Stone was recusing himself (stepping off the case) because his wife was represented by Gluck's lawyer. But when the case was assigned to Justice Schlesinger, Gluck and his colleagues no longer sought to withdraw. Instead, they asked for discovery (the chance to get information from their opponents) - something typical of continuing the case.

THE UPSHOT: The landlords' motion to withdraw from the case is denied, and the court gave them a second chance to file their motion for summary judgment within 10 days.

STAY POSTED FOR OUR COURT HEARING ON THE LANDLORD'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION. (It might be April 22, 2009.)

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